She was sitting as usual at her favourite table at the Tavern. The night was still young and the next predictable and awaited spectacle was the Moonrise. That gorgeous half dark miracle would surprise any spirit left at shore by its somptuous, majestic ascendent silence.

As every night, the tourists would finish their drinks and leave peacefully the tables, letting behind somekind of joyful atmosphere that would quietly dismantle as the music stopped.

This was by far her favourite moment of the night, when waiters, cooks and bartenders would gather in small groups for beer, and relaxing quiet moments. This was the time when one could have a glimpse of the tavern in its whole authenticity.

After finishing their drinks, the cooks stood up in order to bring back a table that had been brought to them from the terrace, so that they can enjoy more space together. 

K, who was quietly sitting next to her, suddenly stood up, and stopped the cooks from carrying the table back. He called Th, and they brought it back together, thus, spearing the whole team of cooks an unnecessary last effort for the night.

       – K ? she asked on his way back. Was this Philotimo, that just happened?

       – No. That was Love. Philotimo was when we brought the table to them. 

Bringing it back, was Love…

As strange as it may sound, there is this unique Greek concept that has been attempted to translation so many times, in so many languages, failing all the time. 


The most faithful translation of this concept was found to be “Love of Honor” . Philos and Thimi. A kind of rare virtue that cannot be depicted in other languages even if 1000 words were used to describe it.

She was thinking how translations could be tricky. How they are always prone to betrayal. Italians have a saying about that: Tradutore, traditore… meaning that one cannot instantly replace words from one language to another without losing something on the way. It may be losing sense, form, sound or just  that little “je ne sais quoi” that the original word was being proud of….

Emerite linguists and universitary professors were asked to define Philotimo. The explanations are numerous, well researched, and pompous. The poor word had been scanned thousands of times, without anyone finding a clue about what it really means.

As if one asks a cardiologist to talk about the anatomy of the soul…

She suddenly understood that Philotimo could not be translated or taught by means of Reason. That It is Soul related. A way of doing. A way of being done. A beautiful mix of Love, Empathy, Compassion, Respect, a pinch of God’s Inspiration and a vertical spine, make Philotimo, the very exquisite trait of character of Greeks.

Philotimo cannot be translated by means of words either. But it can  definitely be felt, recognized and understood by the ones that have it in the genetic structure of their soul. By the ones that have the virtue of being able to embrace the next of kind, without boundaries, rules or false ethics to restrain them.

Trying to define something so simple and natural, usually  leads to a complex maze of intrications. It leads to redundancy, “trop plein”, too much. And because too much is like not enough, mathematically, the attempt fails all the time, being reduced to zero. 

Use Reason and you will not find Philotimo.

Reason cannot give an answer to everything. 

        At the opposite, Soul is not reasonable. 

        But she has its reasons…

Ignore her, she will defy you.

Bury her, she will erupt.

Kill her, she will haunt you.

Let her be and she will be your best “âme sœur”, your leader, your trustworthy friend.

She will help you feel and live through Philotimo.

*assigning the feminine gender to the word "soul" is deliberate. In Greek the "soul" is a "she".

It is not possible to depict Philotimo in one specific image. Therefore I chose one about what Philotimo has with abundance: Love.

Léo Ferré and his chimpanzee Pépée